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When hundreds of thousands of global justice campaigners flocked to Genoa in the summer of 2001 to protest at the G-8 summit of major industrialized nations, the found an unlikely ally in the powerful and respected cardinal of Milan.

While many influential figures in the Italian political and business spheres sought to dismiss the labor, farm, environmental and human rights activists who confronted authorities in Genoa with mass demonstrations that mirrored the protests two years earlier at the World Trade Organization ministerial in Seattle, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi wrote in a widely-circulated Catholic newspaper that, "There is a clear conflict between capital and labor, and the ones who are suffering aren't the industrialists but the men and women who are working."

As the 115 elector cardinals of the church gather this week to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Tettamanzi has emerged as a leading contender. He is not the frontrunner – most observers assign that designation to German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a far more conservative player on issues of church doctrine and economics – but Tettamanzi is very much in the running. (Some observers have identified him as the chief rival to Ratzinger.) So, too, are several other cardinals who have been in the forefront of raising economic justice issues.

If Bush's proposed funding cuts go through, many Americans seeking basic literacy will have nowhere to go.

The Drum Major Institute grades Congress.

With the federal government content to let Wal-Mart run amok,it has been left up to the states to protect workers from the retailbehemoth's excesses. This past Saturday, April 9, Maryland showed America'slargest corporation who's boss.

Maryland's House of Delegates voted 82 to 48 to approve a bill thatwould require all businesses in the state with more than 10,000employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on healthbenefits for workers (or, alternatively, donate the funds to thestate's Medicaid program). Wal-Mart, with its 15,000 employees, is theonly such company that does not already spend 8 percent on health care foremployees--and thus, the direct target of the bill. Spearheaded byMaryland for Health Care, the legislation was supported by a coalition ofover 1,000 organizations representing Maryland's health, business, andcommunity interests.

"We're looking for responsible businesses to ante up...and provideadequate health care," said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles). Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr., who is expected to veto the bill, lashed out atDemocratic legislators. Cowed by Rush Limbaugh's criticisms of themeasure, Ehrlich claimed the bill had made a mockery of Maryland.[Note to Marylanders: when your Governor cares more about Rush'sopinion than yours, you're in trouble. Thankfully though, with a widemajority of the Senate having approved the bill, Ehrlich's vetodoesn't stand a chance.]

Foreign aid is not dead but it seemed so last month, as the International Development Conference (a meeting of foreign aid experts that has been held in fifteen of the last twenty years) opened her

Terri Schiavo's life and death raise issues of acceptance, equity and rights.

Most television viewers don't know it, but a huge portion of what they watch on the local news programs aired by their favorite stations is not actually "news." Rather, local television stations around the country have in recent years been taking "video news releases" from the federal government and major corporations – particularly the big pharmaceutical companies – and airing them as if they were news reports.

Video news releases (VNRs) are so common these days that they actually dominate some newscasts, blurring the lines between advertising and news more blatantly than product placements in movies do the lines between advertising and entertainment.

But, from now on, VNRs will be identified as productions of the corporations that developed them, rather than pawned off as part of the news.

As celluloid guinea pig for the American left, I am perfectly willing to
report on the effects of exposure to this month's pop hit, Sin
City
.

A new book on Isaeli courts in the West Bank and Gaza.

The retreat from Lebanon threatens the survival of the regime in Damascus.

Women seeking refuge in the United States receive a cold welcome.

Rebuilding is no longer the primary purpose of the reconstruction industry.

I never thought I would miss unfair, infuriating, over-the-top Andrea Dworkin.

Passings - This Week on the Web - News of the Weak in Review

Arnold Schwarzenegger now holds a markedly weakened hand.

If things are so much better in Iraq, why are we not decreasing our forces there?

The Patriot Act is the gateway drug for an Administration addicted to the expansion of unaccountable power.

THE SAGE OF BALTIMORE

Stroudsburg, Pa.

Several weeks ago, two 16 year-old Muslim girls, one from Bangladesh and the other from Guinea, were arrested in New York City on the specious grounds that they were potential suicide bombers. Neither of the girls has been formally charged with any crime, but both have been detained indefinitely in facilities far away from their homes and families.

As Ari Berman reported yesterday, few details about the arrests have been released. What we do know, however, suggests that the charges could well be completely unfounded.

While both of the girls are in the United States illegally, both have also lived here for most of their lives. The lead editorial in yesterday's New York Times reveals that investigator's suspicions are curiously based on an essay written by one of the girls in her high school--an essay arguing that suicide is a violation of Islamic law. And while investigators maintain that the two suspects are friends who attended the same radical Mosque where they plotted together, their families say that they never even met before their arrests.

Did you see the story the other day about George W's iPod? Seems he's had it since July, when his freewheeling twin daughters gave it to him as a birthday present. Dubya has some 250 songs on it--a paltry number given the 10,000 selections it can hold.

As the New York Times reported, "Mr Bush, as leader of the free world, does not take the time to download the music himself; that task falls to his personal assistant who buys the individual songs and albums." (And you can bet there's no file sharing.) As for an analysis of Dubya's playlist, it's interesting that the president likes artists who don't like him. He has John Fogerty's "Centerfield," which was played at Texas Rangers games when Bush owned the team and is still played at ballparks all over America. However, Bush hasn't gone so far as to include "Fortunate Son"--the anti-Vietnam war song about who has to go to war that Fogerty sang when he fronted Creedence Clearwater Revival. (Remember how that goes: "I ain't no Senator's son...some folks are born with a silver spoon in hand.")

Reading the Times report did evoke one sheepish confession: I share something in common with George W. Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" is a top ten fave on my iPod playlist too. Seems the Irish folk-rocker is a Bush favorite going way back.